A day in the life:

Sometime around high school, I learned that I could draw. Whenever I would draw one of my masterful cartoons, I would invariably get complaints that they couldn't read the caption or what was in the word balloons.

It was this, not the nagging of my teachers, that drove me to improve my penmanship. I bought a little piece of plastic, which had long rectangular holes in them tall enough to write lines on a sheet of loose leaf paper. With little effort, my penmanship improved. Soon, I didn't even need the plastic thing. I could write straight text across paper even without the guiding lines. Over the years, I have retained the ability to write legibly, and straightly, and have incorporated my own handwriting style to my penmanship.

However, since I am prone to drawing cartoons, I favor printing in ALL CAPS when I write by hand. My handwriting now resembles - almost duplicates - Berke Breathed's captions in Bloom County cartoons. On the funny pages, it's not that remarkable, but when I write a check, or fill out a report, people remark that my handwriting is "cool".

Penmanship seems to be becoming less and less important in schools these days. With the proliferation of computers, and the ubiquity of printed reports, as opposed to handwritten reports, the need for writing is dwindling. Even pre-schoolers are learning how to peck out words on the keyboard, and are therefore devoting little or no attention to handwriting.

This is a concern for some educators and parents who feel that penmanship is linked with literacy. I tend to disagree. My doctor's penmanship is hideous, but I'm fairly sure that he's literate.

There is an entire science dedicated to the idea that handwriting can reveal a person's personality and all around behavioral profile. In Graphology, handwriting is broken down into four elements which can be observed and classified. The elements are baseline, enclosure, stroke and structure.

The baseline represents the persons overall attitude. Vertical placement along the written line's baseline reflects the persons grasp on reality, grasp of abstract concepts, and philosophical versus physical ideas. Horizontal "motion" represents the person's reactivity to situations.

The enclosures - loops, stems and circles - represents the writer's imagination and creativity.

The structure is the overall pattern of the writing. If it's tightly written, or loosely formed writing, if periods are connected to the final letter of the sentence, whether patterns of letters match closely each time they are written or if they vary. The structure gives you insight to the writer's organizational skills, and conformity.

The stroke represents energy, vitality, emotional intensity, and sexual prowess. This is measured by several aspects of the written line, including the pressure you apply to the paper, the thickness of the lines, color contrast, line straightness and curvature. Each of these aspects conveys a different aspect to the writer's personality.

There are several studies, however, which claim that graphology is nothing more than bunk. I would agree, because I've found that changing your handwriting requires little effort, and I have in fact done so. Changing your personality is much more difficult, and as far as I know, I still have the same one I had before.